My first meeting was at Brands Hatch. It was the 1958 August Bank Holiday meeting with no fewer than thirteen races. We were along the top straight behind no more than a grassy bank with a chestnut-paling fence with rusty wire and a faded notice saying "MOTOR RACING IS DANGEROUS"! One year later during a practise day, at that very spot, a Formula 3 race wheel came sailing over us. Looking at where it was going we were relieved to see it bounced in a clear grassy area hitting no one. I particularly remember Formula 2 battles between Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham in identical Coopers on the short circuit which Jack normally won. I also remember 'Doc' Shepherd in the Alexander Engineering Austin A40 Farina Mk II running rings round the large Jaguar saloons driven by the likes of Graham Hill and Colin Chapman. When I could drive four wheels in 1962 my first car was an A40 Mk II. I had Alexander stage 1 tuning put on it and then Pirelli Cinturato tyres. What a car! At an International Trophy meeting at Silverstone with a friend we were partway between Abbey and Woodcote, opposite the Buffet (bar) marquee, leaning on a rusty scaffolding pole barrier with not even a grassy bank between the track and us. We took it in turns to go to the bar to get two more pints! My first British Grand Prix was 1960, probably in the South Grandstand which was always my favoured viewing place at Silverstone. Jack won, Surtees and Ireland completed the podium and I completed the lap chart. Jack was established as my all-time hero. In those days I only had access to the family Kodak and Ensign box cameras with which I had with variable results. In 1962 I bought a Samoca 35 LE 35mm camera and started capturing scenes around the motor racing world. Prior to 1962 I had been going to Brands Hatch, Crystal Palace, Thruxton and Silverstone.
1962, Kyalami, Crowthorne Corner. Pieterse, the winner, is 2nd in the red car.
In 1962 I spent 10 weeks in Johannesburg installing a LEO III computer (LEO=Lyons Electronic Office), the first LEO III in the world. While there I attended the First S.A. Republic Races at Kyalami on 30th June 1962. There were two motorcycle races, a sports and grand touring car race, a touring car race and the First South African Republic Trophy Race. The entry included Dave Charlton, Syd van der Vyver, Peter de Klerk, Doug Serrurier, Ernest Pieterse, Mike Harris and Neil Lederle. The entry was made up of Cooper, LDS and Lotus chassis with 1500cc Alfa, Borgward, Climax, Ford and Porsche engines plus a couple of specials. Pieterse won in a Lotus 21-Climax 4. van der Vyver, Serrurier, Pieterse, Harris and Lederle all entered the South African Grand Prix at East London later in the year.
For 1963 I was in the Stowe Grandstand (Block F, Row 3, Seat 1) for the British Grand Prix. I again completed the lap chart and was in Seventh Heaven as the two Brabhams led for 27 laps. Jack retired after 27 laps and Dan after 59. Clark won by over 25s.
In 1964 on my way for fortnight's holiday, on the French Riviera and the Antibes Jazz Festival with two friends, we dropped in at the Circuit Automobile de Montagne for the Formula 2 race. We parked in cloud on a steep grassy field and could hear racing car engines. On our way towards the sound we found a food tent and had a sandwiche jambon helped down by a couple of glasses of vin rouge. We then found ourselves opposite the pits and as the skies cleared the beautiful circuit was revealed. Denny Hulme won the race for Brabham.
In 1965 the theme of the Lord Mayor's Show was motoring and motor sport. Prior the main parade three World Champions drove their Formula 1 cars through the streets of the City. Jim Clark in a Lotus, Graham Hill in a BRM, and Jack Brabham in a Brabham. A fourth car, a Cooper, was driven by Bruce McClaren. The sound of the Formula 1 engines reverberating off the buildings was something to savour. The four cars with the drivers sitting in them were put on floats and took part in the parade.
The 1965 Guards Trophy for 2 and 6 litre sports cars saw many Grand Prix drivers taking part in the larger category. Jim Clark in a Lotus 40 spun off and retired right in front of me. John Surtees won in a Lola T70. The car was bright red and had the large distinctive Team Surtees white arrow on the bonnet. In later years I saw this or subsequent version of it on a trailer outside the notorious "The Flat" in North Harrow. I stopped and confirmed with a person there its identity. "The Flat" was used by many up-and-coming motor racing personalities, like Piers Courage, Charles Crichton-Stewart. Frank Williams had slept on the sofa.
Olympia, London Racing Car Show. Andretti's 1969 Indy 500-winning Hawk III-Ford.
The Chairman at my rugby club had a Sunbeam Harrington 'Le Mans' with a BARC badge on the front. This was a bit up-market from my Bond Equipe GT4S which unfortunately went for scrap with the BARC badge and a numbered AA badge on the front. He had proposed my membership of the BARC and we went to the presentation of BARC Gold Medals to Jim Clark and Colin Chapman, at the Grosvenor House Hotel on July 14 1965 for their win in 1965 at the Indianapolis 500. We went in and our names were called out and we were introduced to Lord Howe, President of the BARC, Lady Howe, Jim Clark and Sally Stokes, Jim's girlfriend. We took it in turns to keep ourselves well stocked up with smoked salmon with cucumber sandwiches and gin & tonics during the reception. Mary Rand, the Olympic Gold Medallist, presented the medals. A film of the Indianapolis 500, 'The Short Way Round', followed. Afterwards we adjourned to a small pub around the back for a few pints. A British Pathe newsreel of the event is available here. When for the first eleven years the World Championship included the Indy 500 only one European car, the Ferrari 375 driven by Alberto Ascari ever appeared there. He spun off after 40 laps. In October 1960 the rear-engined assault on the 500 started when Jack Brabham did a rookie test in the Cooper T53. The next year with a tailor-made Cooper with a 2.7 litre Climax 4 engine Jack came ninth in the 500. Clark won in 1965 and Graham Hill in a Lola-Ford won in 1966. All cars that year were rear-engined. Graham Hill was, and to this day still is, the only driver to win the World Championship, The Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24-hour race.
For the International Trophy I was in the South Grandstand. In those days after the main race the crowds used to come over the barriers to congratulate the winner. In my case I came down from my seat to get this photograph of Jack Brabham. We would then return to our places to watch what would possibly be an exciting final race.
1966, Reims. Grid start, Surtees, Cooper Maserati T81, heads Bandini and Parkes
In 1966, with a friend, my main holiday was to the Club Méditerrannée at Cadaques in northern Spain. We decided to take in the French Grand Prix at Reims on our way home. I booked grandstand seats, Tribune Couverte R. Sommer, opposite the pits. With 3 litre engines the 1966 season had been billed as "The Return of Power". From the start the field disappeared off to left. They reappeared to the right in the distance at the far end of the Thillois Straight, the helmets just little dots over the top of the cornfield. There was a gasp from the crowd at the speed as the cars accelerated to the Thillois Hairpin. The roar of the engines was deafening as the cars swept past completing the first lap. Bandini led Brabham by about 30 seconds after 31 laps and then Jack came past in the lead. We could see Bandini down at the Thillois Hairpin. He eventually got back to the pits using the cable as a hand throttle. After repairs during a 20-minute pit stop he managed to complete 37 laps. The trophy was presented right below us.
1966, Brands Hatch. Brabham leads Gurney and Hulme from the start
Returning to the UK I had seats in the BARC Grandstand on Paddock Hill for the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch with my long term motor racing friends, Graham and Ann. We would subsequently visit Monza, Spa and Zandvoort in later years. Hulme came round seventh after the first lap and eventually finished second to Brabham. Gurney retired the beautiful Eagle when the fragile Weslake engine expired.
1966, Oulton Park. Chris Lawrence's Ferrari engine
I drove up to Oulton Park for the Gold Cup in 1966. A few miles from the circuit a puff of smoke came up through the vents in the bulkhead of my Bond Equipe GT4S! The engine was still running. I pulled over, lifted up the bonnet and found the suppressor for the radio on the coil had gone up in smoke. I ripped off the wire of the rather hot capacitor and replaced it later in the week. In the grassy paddock I took photos of Formula 1 engines - a BRM H16, a Climax 4, a Repco V8, a Cosworth V8 and this Ferrari 6 sports car engine in Chris Lawrence's Cooper T73.